Biotech beans and corn will find a ready market this fall

Don't sweat selling your biotech beans or corn this fall. At least that's the word from grain companies, the American Soybean Association (ASA) and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

"There is zero to non-existent concern this year," says Kim Nill, technical issues director for ASA. "Last year there was no disruption with soybeans and I expect the same this year.

"Many of the elevators that tried to separate them last year say they regret that decision. It was a huge expenditure for nothing," he says.

Some identity-preserved varieties will be handled differently when delivered to the elevator, but the majority of the non-biotech and biotech varieties will be handled the same, says Jim Hershey, ASA's international markets director.

NCGA doesn't expect any problems for corn growers either. "There were no hiccups last year and we don't expect to have any this year either," says Stewart Reeve, director of communications.

"We have always advised corn growers in the past to take the 'know before you grow' approach," Reeve says.

ADM will separate biotech and non-biotech varieties at its elevators again this year, says Larry Cunningham, senior vice president of corporate affairs.

"The process was a little more costly for us last year, but we do this so that if Japan or Europe wants non-GMO (genetically modified organism) soybeans, we can deliver them," he says.

"When farmers come to the elevator, they will be required to designate their seed as either GMO or non-GMO."

It is uncertain at this time whether or not farmers will receive premiums for their non-biotech crops. This will be easier to determine closer to harvest, says Cunningham.

All Cargill grain elevators will accept genetically enhanced corn and soybean varieties from the 1999 and 2000 crop years that have been approved for use in the U.S. and Europe. Varieties not approved in the European Union will be channeled into an alternative international or domestic market, says John Pocock, Cargill spokesman in Minneapolis.

Spokesmen for both grain companies also say that the biotech controversy in Europe and Japan is not having a significant effect on U.S. farmers. What's going on internationally is not hurting the U.S. market since there is a market for both biotech and non-biotech seed. Instead, it's giving the end user an alternative, says Bob Neal, specialty grains manager at Cargill.

Grain companies, ASA and NCGA aren't the only ones expecting a problem-free fall. Farmers don't seem to be worried, either.

"I don't have any concerns about selling biotech beans and corn this year," says Roger Dale, a soybean farmer and seed dealer from Hanley Falls, MN. "As long as we continue to educate consumers on GMOs, I don't see any problems in the future, either."

Even though there shouldn't be any problems this year, the only way to know for sure how your elevator is handling biotech crops is to contact it. The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) has compiled a list of elevators buying biotech crops. It's available on the Internet at www.amseed.com or by linking to the ASTA site from NCGA's Web site at www.ncga.com. The current list of elevators was compiled last September. An updated list will become available this fall.

"The elevators announced that they would be accepting Roundup Ready soybeans back in early spring," says Marc Curtis, ASA president. "It would be difficult for them to go back on their word now."